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  1. #1
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    Default 78 Sportster in a barn.. ?

    Someone I know has been telling me about this 78 sporty in his barn for a few years now. Not his bike. He's just storing it.
    Owner died. Tied up in litigation over the estate. Blah, blah..

    The Mrs wanted a bike then so I told him I was interested and to call me when it was settled. She has one now, and a harley project to boot.

    He calls today. Litigation is settled. Title is one the way. Owner is some chick and she wants 1500 for it.

    Do I even want this thing?

    Any room to make money on it? I know they aren't worth much.

    Supposed to be "rebuilt" at some point in the past (shudder) and the tank is off the bike. Does not run at the moment.

    I know very little about Harleys generally and nothing about Sportsters.

    Any Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    We're supposed to go look at it tonight..

  3. #3

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    Five hunnert dolla bike, in my opinion.

    You pay the five hunnert for the privilege of spending several thousand on it. Your call, but at the asking price I wouldn't even look at it.

    My 2c only, your results may vary.
    Jim

  4. #4
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    Big twin money to fix, but only worth a fraction of a BT when finished. Assume it needs EVERYTHING.

  5. #5
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    All the above is true, but they do make fun diggers

  6. #6
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    As always, Depends on condition and who did the work, Personally, Id value it really low. The only Ironhead I miss is a 1960 that was cool, and still have twinges of regrets, But a Evo Sportster is miles ahead better in every way.

    Only buy it if you want a project and love it, not for investment. Its a crude form of agriculture, and while might seem odd as mostly a British bike guy, Ironheads require a extreme level of skill to avoid expensive disasters.

    Many moons ago, I had a friend and we turned Iron heads and shovels for money. During this time we cringed when someone we knew bought one from some ad in the paper, and said,,,"Oh no this one will be fine, it was just rebuilt!"
    Days-weeks-months later it would grenade. We did pretty well because ours were setup well.

    So, just off the top of my head, heres the problem areas in general, Different years had their own issues.

    A) Crank and main bearings. This is the farm machinery part. Its a very basic fork and knife flywheel and rods but few people can set them up right. They have to be done just right, and involved a big mallet and a secret dance, then the bearings have to be just right as well,. We had a local guy everyone used. Cliff Lamb. Pay him whatever he asks, and it will be done right. Many shops had him set up their bottom ends, and finished the rest themselves. We also have a local guy who does amazing dynamic balancing. Anyone else? Id be extremely suspect of it being a hand grenade. Once upon a time there was a lot of people who did this work, not many today.
    *If it does blow up, finding replacement cases is getting hard to find.

    B) Cams, the cams on Ironheads (QuadCam Bastards MC) are fiddly to set up lash and mesh. Again, not rocket science but it seems few people do it right. If done wrong its an expensive fix but tends to kill the entire engine if the cams disintegrate as it goes into a expensive oil pump and often takes out the crank and rods. Dont cut corners on cams.

    C) Trans. Again, no different than many tractors but the weakest spot on a Ironhead. The number of Ironheads with tranny problems was the #1 thing we ran into. Setting up the tranny is not rocket science but apparently challenging for many people,.

    D) Cases, its common to see a Ironhead with a welded up trans area on the case, many blew up, but are known to crack as well just from hard use, Some builders weld and re-inforce these areas to head off eventual problems. But if the cams or bottom end goes, finding correct cases is a real problem. I found 1/2 a Ironhead at a garage sale cheap, too far gone to build so parted it out,. (I dont like people parting out vintage bikes,. but this was past the point of saving). One of the few good things was it had good cases. I made good money selling the cases on eBay, really good money. Buyer had been looking for a long time and I had multiple people all bidding. I know of people who spent more on replacement cases than they bought the bike for.

    E) Mounts, most people thrashed these things, were morons, or idiots and their tools consisted of a big hammer, vice grips and a crescent wrench. (Metric one usually). So common to see wrong bolts, wrong threads, damaged threads, wallored out holes poorly tapped and threaded holes or badly installed inserts. But a common problem was cracked or broken rear engine mounts. This is just bodgery and bad practices, loose mounts and overtight on the rear mount and they crack every time.. Again. common to see damaged mounts.

    All that said, Set up right and well maintained, Sportsters are cool, and were SPORT, as in performance, to compete with the British hot rod bikes of the day.

    I may be wrong, but 78 was not quite massively improved and they tried to get their act together in early 1980s before it went to Evo in 86. But I think 78 was the low points of AMF? I didnt follow it that closely But they did do some things better than the 1960s bikes.

    But as I started out with, it all depends on condition, rarely, almost always, No one left them stock so, it either was improved or just a hand grenade waiting to go off. My Policy is buy-pay accordingly to the fact I assume I have to rebuild it from front to back, If it turns out in better condition you are happy, but pay accordingly.

    TLDR? Buy it cheap if you enjoy projects and can afford it. Or buy it cheap and use for trading material, or salvage good stuff off it and sell the remainder.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
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    Before you guys start throwing out low numbers have any of you looked to see what things are selling for these days?????? $500 is a pipe dream for a decent Sportster these days..... Any year.......

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    Never go shopping hungry and consider parting it out which usually yields more money.

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    Do you know which model of Sportster it is? ... perhaps a XR750?

    1978 Sportster

    Model Production Numbers

    XLH 1000 11,271
    XLH 1000 (75th Anniversary Model) 2,323
    XLCH 1000 2,758
    XLT 1000 (Touring) 6
    XLS 1000 (Roadster) 2
    XLCR 1000
    XR-750 83

    VIN for 1978 Sportsters

    Sportster Model Code
    (first 2 digits)
    1C = XR-750
    2G = XLT
    3A = XLH
    4A = XLCH
    4E = XLS
    7F = XLCR

    Click image for larger version. 

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    XLCR
    http://sportsterpedia.com/doku.php/s...1978_sportster


    Ironhead Technical Categories
    http://sportsterpedia.com/doku.php/t...cal_categories

  10. #10
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    Never go shopping hungry and consider parting it out which usually yields more money.
    But the way I look at it you have plenty of left overs......... LOL So that brings the cost down per meal............

    Plus parting it out is the best way to go because people are always looking for parts........

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the wisdom.. You guys are right. You have to want the bike, and I really don't. The Mrs. saw the Paugho bike and has half a 45 project going along those lines. She's stoked about that and really doesn't want to take it on, either.

    Before she got it, maybe? But not now.

    They described it to me accurately. It is complete, except for the tank. The lady is supposed to have that. Said it leaked.

    Appears to be all there, otherwise. It was a bolt on custom job from the era. Purple paint. Not an XLCR.

    Be a good project for someone. I love how the Ironheads look. But you guys are right. BT money and no value after it is done.

    Thanks..
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails sporty.jpg  

  12. #12
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    I'd rather have the WHITE. Grandpa used to putt us around the yard in one of those, it could only make left turns.

  13. #13

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    Welp, so what did you decide??? Pass, buy to part out???

  14. #14
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    Ahhh, we're gonna pass on it. It was always for the Mrs. and she has a Harley project now.

    So, her interest level has dropped considerably.

    I love the iron head, but I only need so many bikes?

    I don't want to part it. Maybe someone will get it and fix it up right?

  15. #15

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    I’m in a similar, but tougher, spot…

    My cousin passed two weeks ago and now his 84yo mom has his 883 sportster in the garage IN PIECES.

    As the family “bike guy” they think I’m the guy to take it off their hands for, you know, the going market rate for a 20 year old sporty…

    Which ain’t much, but this is a rusted pile of ragged parts was disassembled 15 years ago and, to me, not worth carrying out to sell for scrap metal…

    I’m trying to gracefully not get into this!

    kestrou

  16. #16
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    I’m trying to gracefully not get into this!
    Directness can help sometimes, pointing out the artifact is just an object. If the gesture really matters then about 400-600 bucks would be fair for the (TITLED or it's trash) pile since the frame will take later five speeds (move the sidestand lug). The rest isn't worth any investment since it's best parted out.

    A basket case like that is not worth buying except for someone who needs a titled frame. Feel free to show them this post.

    If they want to get paid they should put it on Facebook Marketplace but dealing with idiot callers is probably a bit much for the bereaved.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by kestrou View Post
    Which ain’t much, but this is a rusted pile of ragged parts was disassembled 15 years ago
    Do you know why it was taken apart in the first place????

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    Do you know why it was taken apart in the first place????
    Probably because someone had a plan. Everybody has a plan...until they get punched in the face.

  19. #19
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    Directness can help sometimes...
    ^ This.

    Maybe, offer to help them sell it if they want? Tell them to be realistic on the price.

    Or, tell them to go to facebook and do a search. See the prices for themselves.

    "It's a Harley!" doesn't always matter.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DazedandConfused View Post
    Probably because someone had a plan. Everybody has a plan...
    Well kinda but not always, the motor could have blown etc it doesn't hurt to ask.........

    Like this project I bought years ago pic below, it was taken apart 25 years before I bought it because it stopped running and they were trying to find the problem...... I finally found it it was a pinched wire that was done at the factory.....
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails MVC-025S-2.jpg   MVC-020S-4.jpg   MVC-024S-3.jpg   MVC-012S-8.jpg  

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